Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hellraiser Movies & More REVIEWED

Firstly, appy-polly-oggies for the dearth of posting lately. I have been busy as usual with going to concerts, listening to music (like the new Ghost album, 'Infestissumam,' for example) reading (currently "The Plague Dogs" by Richard Adams), sewing, still trying to learn to knit (attempting to make a plushy of Aylmer from the film 'Braindamage'), and etc. However, I have been dealing with some personal issues too such as a death in the family. Anyway, expect a return to regular postings and Agent Cooper stylings. I would like to add to any of my readers out there, in hard times or otherwise, the following out-of-context advice from the late Jack Horkheimer: keep looking up.

Now for something COMPLETELY different.

Hellrasier! In the thunder and heat. Hellraiser! Rock you back in your seat. Hellraiser! And I'll make it come true. Hellraiser! I'll put a spell on you.


Ok, ok, so I am OBSESSED with Hellraiser and associated projects. If you've known me for more than a few seconds (or especially if you've ever been to my home) this is likely VERY obvious. I imagine the posters, figurine shrine surrounded by whips and chains, and books are a decent give-away though.

Right, right, so the first Hellraiser film, released in 1987 (my birthing year!) is an undisputed classic. It expanded the way many of us thought about heaven, hell, demons, and angels. It was different but oh-too-familiar, surreal and bitingly visceral. Based on Clive Barker's short novella, "The Hellbound Heart" Hellraiser the film's main change from the book was the dynamic of the Kirsty-Rory-Julia triangle. In the novella, Kirsty is a friend and distant admirer of Rory's, never brave enough to make a move. In the film, Julia took a decidedly evil step-mother twist that served the sequel well. Both have great elements and both work well in their individual elements. However, the film was designed to open up the mythos for sequels.  Now to critique of individual elements of the film:
Characters: We have Rory figured from the start, he's designed to be simple and boring. Julia develops nicely over course of the film as we learn of her affair with Frank and as she decides  to aid him through murder. Kirsty is a MUCH stronger female character in the film and is thus interesting to watch. I do approve how her character developed throughout the series, but more on that to come. Frank is also very one-sided but you love to hate him (or maybe the reverse?). Of course the Cenobites are interesting, mystical quasi-human purveyors of experience who push all limits, with a decided tilt towards the painful. Let us now take time to remember the homeless man. He was creepy and revolting (eating a handful of live grasshoppers), but what I really dug is the sound of flying birds as he appeared or disappeared, giving him an otherworld, psychopomp-type flavor. Of course, when he morphs into a huge dragon skeleton that was pretty cool. A bit over the top and slightly misplaced I think, but cool anyway. Whatever your opinion on his demonic alter-appearance, the use of him as a spirit person who carries the box to the next user/victim was interesting.
All the parts in the film were well acted with special props to Clare Higgins as Julia.

Special Effects: best of the series (though II and IV come close), cenobite make-up included. Note Pinhead's dirty teeth. I guess the devil IS in the details. Special appreciation to the guy in the skinless Frank suit. That must have sucked.

Sets: also my favorite (also with close runners-up in II and IV, plastic brick walls in II included), the homestead really became a character in itself, the attic with and without Cenobite accoutrements was moody and effective (not to mention the lighting, THE LIGHTING).

Music: Christopher Young did probably his best work on this one (again, close follow-up on II) with tenderness, grandiosity, perversity all rolled together. It always works. Great job! Note, Coil was originally commissioned to do the soundtrack, but it was rejected. The material was later released and is interesting I think. It would have made the movie very atmospheric but I think it would have lacked the emotional pull that Young pulled off.

Most of the crew from the 1st hung around, with Clive Barker writing though not directing this outing. Pinhead's backstory is 'fleshed' out, hahaha, nice and graphic-like. The fiery hammer was a great touch. The basic plot is that Kirsty has been committed after the events of the 1st film. The head Psychiatrist at the ward has been following the box (LeMarchand's Box or the Lament Configuration) for some time and seeks to exploit Kirsty and his patients to unleash its power. Most of the film takes place in the hell of the cenobites, 'The Labyrinth.' Kirsty gets tougher and Julia gets bitchier while also crushing her former lover, tormentor, and enslaver, Frank Cotton. This film basically turns into 2 female wills pitted against each other for the honor of the Cotton family while 2 male wills (Channard the Psychiatrist and Pinhead) duke it out for control of hell (Julia's place is apparently well cemented). Interestingly, 2 female wills team up against Pinhead in the 3rd film. The story is a bit contrived and sloppy compared to the 1st film, but the results are fun anyway. If you liked the 1st film, SEE this one too. Note, there is a ton of lost footage including some where the Cenobites wear surgical gowns. This was featured on some of the VHS packaging (and I believe some other promo shots/press kits) though the scenes never made it into the film.

Characters: decent development of existing characters and some interesting new ones, though I wish we discovered more about Tiffany.

Special Effects/Makeup: probably equally as good as the 1st. Skinless Julia looks great and I love the maggot skin, not to mention Channard's penis tube head thing.

Sets: good, a bit overdone or underdone for the hell scenes, you gotta love the flimsy walls and matte paintings.

Music: fantastic continuation of the themes from the 1st, Young expands them and creates new ones to give the film more grandiosity and majesty, as we are dealing much more closely with Hell itself. Note, he used Morse code for G-O-D on horns when Leviathan, Lord of the Labyrinth appears. Brilliant.

Plot: The pillar that Pinhead was encased in at the end of HII: HB is purchased by a nightclub owner who accidentally releases the Cenobite to run amok in NYC while a reporter is covering the news thusly created. Features a great scene of Pinhead desecrating a church.

Characters: Joey was supposed to be tough but she was kind of boring. Terri was attractive but took a bit too long to get her shit together and fight back against her abusive boyfriend. I would love to have had more development of her character. It goes without saying that every fanboy would have loved to have more development of her relationship with Joey (hinted, but not confirmed). JP was one-sided but he was supposed to be. His acting was still a bit lame at parts though. Doug Bradley's dual performance as Pinhead and Elliot Spencer was cool, with an interesting albeit confusing  and poorly explained separation of the collective entity into these two characters. Some decent lines in this one, but overall weaker than the previous which was weaker than the 1st. Of course a set up for a sequel was left in the end. Note, 3 versions of this film exist. The is a standard cut, an 'uncut' one, and a truly 'uncut' one. The standard version was available on VHS and a shitty (Canadian?) DVD for a number of years. The 'uncut' version was released a few years ago on DVD and features some more gore (though not much) and some extended scenes. The REAL uncut one is to my knowledge only available on VHS and though it contains minimal extra gore, it does have a tiny bit more nudity. Mostly though it is extended or build up scenes. You are fine with the DVD version.

Sets: Church and nightclub (pre- and post-massacre) well done. Otherwise, I would have liked to see more of NYC get devastated. The film is called 'Hell On Earth' after all, not 'Hell in a Nightclub, Churhc, and a Reporters' Dreams.' Special nod to the Pillar that Pinhead rests in, excellent improvement from the end of HII: HB.

Special Effects/Makeup: Pinhead's pins are too wobbly through most of the film and his scars aren't deep enough. The Cenobites are also the dullest of the series, though that's a concept problem. I did like the ''Barbie" Cenobite and the Terri Cenobite was interesting but we didn't get enough screen time.  The massacre scene has some decent props but the execution of the violence was weak, minimal squibs and most of it was props to look at with minimal movement to give the makeup life.

Music: The film had a score by Randy Miller that mostly took from Christopher Young's work but added some darker, gothier overtones. Not enough originality for me to go bonkers over it but what he did was good regarding Pinhead. Regarding scenes of chaos and destruction: way too weak and cheesy. The film also had a soundtrack featuring Motorhead performing Hellraiser (not Ozzy), another Motorhead tune 'Hell on Earth' which was very slow and moody, an interesting piece in Motorhead's catalog. Also features 'Ooh La La' by KMFDM, but that's one of my least favorite of their songs and turned me off them for a while since it was the first tune I ever heard by them. However, the film does feature the only good song by Triumph I've ever heard, 'Troublemaker.'

THAT'S ALL FOR NOW. More Hellraiser and related stuff to come. The rest should come more quickly, it goes downhill pretty quickly at this point, with some exceptions. Until then, patience. "Some things have to be endured, that's what makes the pleasures so sweet..."
I have such sights to show you....

*Review copyright The Samnambulist, 2013*

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